Come prepared to convert the locals with your duffel bag of lipstick, ramen, t-shirts and the Good News in translation. Laugh at each challenging cross-cultural situation and tell everyone how much you love kasha. Say God loves you to the babushka who scolds you for sitting on cement, then cry as she helps you out of an open sewer grate. Embrace the homeless children who call you mildly obscene vegetable names while you feed them soup. After the near break-in, start sleeping with a bat beneath your bed. Stop sleeping. Keep your coat on at all times. Let no one in your room while you reread the book of Job. Struggle with your lust for an aging ex-con you meet at the mini-bus stop. Fall in love so hard you fall off the daybed, so drunk that soon the bedroom stops turning back into the living room. Drink Baltika No. 9 for breakfast with the shades down. Treat your sinus infection with fate. In the outdoor market, procure a wandering eye and a missing finger, a scar of unknown origin, and a knuckle prison tattoo. Eat nothing but cooked macaroni until your skin turns translucent. Teeter on spiked heels; fend off pickpockets with witchcraft. Step over the bodies by the tracks. Get on any train you want without a ticket.
Julie Gard's prose poetry collection Home Studies (New Rivers Press) was a finalist for the 2016 Minnesota Book Award, and her chapbooks include Obscura: The Daguerreotype Series (Finishing Line Press) andRussia in 17 Objects (Tiger's Eye Press). Julie's poems, stories, and essays have appeared in Gertrude, Fourth River, Clackamas Literary Review, and Blackbox Manifold, among other journals and anthologies. A former Fulbright Graduate Fellow in Vladivostok, Russia, she lives in Duluth and is Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. www.juliegard.com